Shadowheart is an excellent travelling companion, but as far as Baldur’s Gate 3 romances go, she’s far from being the best. If you’ve seen the recent statistics from Larian Studios – which crown her the people’s choice of partner – you might find this hard to believe. But I’m here to tell you that 51.3% of Baldur’s Gate 3 players are wrong – and Shadowheart’s love story is subpar.
Before the Shart stans grab their DnD weapons, this isn’t an attack on Shadowheart as a character. She’s certainly lovable – mysterious, beautiful, witty, and caught in a moral crisis. But a compelling Baldur’s Gate 3 romance needs more than just a lovely object to gaze upon.
A great love story needs chemistry, conflict, and impact. I want my Tav to feel like they bring something to the table when they seduce a Baldur’s Gate 3 companion. There must be stakes that make our romance just as important as tackling the Mind Flayer crisis, and our love should change my lover in some way (for better or worse).
My Tav has as much impact on Shadowheart’s life as Indiana Jones does on Raiders of the Lost Ark. Without Indie, the Nazis would still open the Ark of the Covenant. And without Tav, Shadowheart would make the exact same choices – albeit alone.
(A brief pause to warn you that spoilers are coming up. To explain myself properly, I’m going to need to dive deep into several companion love stories.)
I know from multiple playthroughs that Shadowheart is perfectly capable of escaping the Mind Flayer ship herself. And she’s already struggling with her faith when Tav meets her – Shar wouldn’t keep opening the wound on Shadowheart’s hand if she was staying on the path her god intended. Arguably, when the time comes to kill the Nightsong, Shadowheart is strong enough to refuse without a voice in her ear telling her to.
Plus, Shadowheart will quickly sing the praises of any Tav that frees her on the Mind Flayer ship at the start of the game. Her platonic bond with a character runs so deep that, once you’ve kissed a few times, things don’t feel markedly different.
Compare this with the other Baldur’s Gate 3 companions. Gale’s story makes more sense if he’s in love with Tav, as finding love reminds him of his worth and pushes him to defy Mystra’s will (and not blow himself up in the process).
Karlach’s romance is made steamier (pun intended) by her inability to touch you – and the knowledge that your time together is on the clock. Tav is special to her, the first person she’s been able to connect with in years.
And romancing Astarion reveals a complex side to him that is barely explored in platonic playthroughs. By falling for Tav, he’s forced to confront an unhealthy relationship with sex and his body, which would likely influence the quest for autonomy he’s already on.
In comparison, Shadowheart treats Tav like they’re just kind of there. I haven’t played a Baldur’s Gate 3 epilogue episode yet, but at the end of my original Shadowheart romance run, the DnD Cleric didn’t even seem particularly invested in staying together. She was moving her family to a quiet place away from the city – and I could come too if I liked, she supposed.
If this were real life, Shadowheart probably would be the best choice for a relationship. It’s healthy to have your own life, your own wants, and a level of dependence from your partner. But anyone who’s ever read a romance novel will tell you this – in fiction, healthy relationships can be awfully boring.
For more player data from Baldur’s Gate, here’s how many players avoided banging bear Halsin (I’ve done it both ways, and it’s a good decision). Or, for more of a tabletop RPG focus, here are the lessons DnD should learn from BG3.